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Catching up with ‘the nation’s design doctor’

He's famous for his TV shows, but interior decorator Christopher Lowell is recognized wherever he goes. Doug Miler recently caught up with Lowell and talked about globe-trotting.
Image: Christopher Lowell
Television personality Christopher Lowell says he is constantly recognized and asked for decorating advice when traveling, recalling: “Once in first class, a female airline attendant literally pulled up a chair in the aisle next to me.”Frazer Harrison / Getty Images file
/ Source: Special to

Interior decorator Christopher Lowell is famous for his television shows, “It’s Christopher Lowell!,” “Interior Motives” and the “Christopher Lowell Show,” even winning a Daytime Emmy for the latter program. But he’s also appeared on “The Hollywood Squares” and he’s a national brand, with a line of office products at Office Depot and partnerships with Jo-Ann Stores and 3 Day Blinds. Lowell also has written several best-selling books and designed a hotel in Manhattan Beach, Calif. What hasn’t he done? Stopped saying “You can do it!” to anyone who’s listening and stopped jet-setting all over the world to spread his design tips and great sense of humor. We spoke to him recently about his travels.

Q: You’ve been just about everywhere in the world. Do you have a favorite place that you keep going back to?

A: I tend to do Italy. That’s my place. We’re a worldwide brand, and I go to other places in Europe where they make my products, but I’ve been working my way down “The Boot” through the years. I’m a real foodie, for one thing. So it’s partly the food, partly the art influence, and the people are also really nice with no attitude. My No. 1 fear is not being able to communicate in somebody else’s language, but most Italians speak English, sort of, so it works. I always do Rome twice as my final destination. Generally I fly into Rome, use that as my central hub, and then leave out of Rome. I always get to touch bases there.

Q: Have you ever been burned by not knowing other languages?

A: Absolutely. Basically, I speak so much and so rapidly in English that I never shut up long enough to learn another language. But I was in Frankfurt, Germany, on a recent trip, and I usually have somebody assisting me and traveling with me. Of course they went right through customs, no problem, and I’m stuck by myself. Within five minutes, I’m surrounded by five German shepherd dogs and German soldiers. I’m stuck there and I don’t speak any German. But luckily, when I got out my passport, I also grabbed one of my books and an 8-by-10 glossy and gave it to them. All of a sudden, they’re saying, “You can do it! You can do it!” Apparently they’ve been getting my show on satellite for the last 10 years.

Q: They’re not the only ones who recognize you while you’re traveling, are they?

A: Noooooo. I think I’m sort of the nation’s traveling design doctor. It’s interesting to see who comes up to me in airports and on airplanes. So much of our audience is couples. Guys probably come up to me more than women by a 2-to-1 ratio, too. They say, “I love you, man.” I think I save them a lot of money.

Q: Has your fame ever caused problems while traveling?

A: Actually, at the airport on a recent trip, I’m just about to board my flight when the Texas Boys Choir surrounded me and wanted my autograph. Then they insisted on giving me a concert. And as they sang, I watched my airplane take off. I’ve always made it a rule that if you can’t sneak through the airport and you end up getting busted, so to speak, then you have to be there for the fans. You’re in their living room every day, after all.

Q: Is there any escape?

A: In first class, you’d figure they’d leave you alone and let you vegetate a bit. So what I do is I take like 60 magazines with me, thinking I’ll just hide behind the pages when I’m on the airplane. But if I’m in coach, forget it. I’m instantly in the middle of a design consultation from coast to coast with no way out. You know, “I have this really ugly sofa. What do you think I should do?” Now that’s not a good thing. Once in first class, a female airline attendant literally pulled up a chair in the aisle next to me. And half the time they’ll have pictures!

Q: Any place you have to visit someday?

A: I sort of wanted to do Thailand, but I missed the boat on that one. Outside of that, I’m not that curious anymore. I like to go to places that I know I like. I’m not one of those people who packs for a vacation, goes to 1,900 places, and forgets everything they did. I like life to be simpler than that.